Cult photographer, LaChapelle, exposed at Barbican

Story by Jack Foley

THE first British exhibition of cult American fashion and portrait photographer, David LaChapelle, one of the most exciting and innovative photographers of his generation, is taking place at The Barbican until December 23.

LaChapelle’s unique blend of surrealism and kitsch has changed the direction of fashion and portrait photography over the past decade.

His work has seen him recreate some of the most popular icons of the past 20 years, helping Madonna to become an ethereal goddess, served by three white swans.

Perhaps his most famous/notorious piece of work is that of Britney Spears as a glamorous 'Lolita' in a bedroom full of stuffed toys (see below).

But the exhibition also includes portraits of Alexander McQueen, Naomi Campbell and David Beckham.

LaChapelle is regularly commissioned by leading style and fashion magazines, including I-D, The Face and Vanity Fair, because of his ability to show the famous and the fashionable as we have never seen them before.

LaChapelle: Photographs has been organised by Barbican Art and KunstHaus Vienna in collaboration with David LaChapelle’s studio and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York.

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, available from Zwemmer’s Bookshop, level 3. Priced £24.95.

There is a reading room for both Rapture and LaChapelle, with an opportunity to sample Lavazza coffee. A display will highlight Lavazza’s support of photographic art.

Parents and teachers are asked to use their discretion as some of the images are of a sexual nature.

More about LaChapelle:

Born in North Carolina, LaChapelle studied at the Art Student's League and School of Visual Arts and began his photography career by creating fine art images for Interview Magazine. He has evolved his photography into an idiosyncratic and highly personal combination of reportage and surrealism.

In 1997, LaChapelle released LaChapelle Land, a coffee table volume of his images published by Callaway Editions/Simon & Shuster. It is further evidence of a photography style that can be compared to no one.

He received the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award in 1997 and the 1996 VH1 Fashion Award for Photographer of the Year.

LaChapelle is also known for his groundbreaking use of computer manipulation and futuristic fashion shoots and for placing Hollywood celebrities, such as Uma Thurman, Elton John, Drew Barrymore and the X-Files' David Duchovny, in wildly imaginative and often compromising erotically charged settings.

More recently, he also created music videos: such as the station promo for MTV, in which he recast a scene from the tragi-camp classic 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' with an aging Courtney love and Madonna. Moby's 'Natural Blues' video is another of his recognised favourites.

He has also provided the photographic inspiration for advertising campaigns for such prestigious accounts as Estee Lauder, Prescriptives, Volvo, Levis, Diesel jeans.

The Barbican, Silk Street, EC2. To find out more, click here for the Barbican website, telephone 020 7638 8891, or keep hitting these pages.